Mother says son is stuck in the system

Bonnie Belec
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Psychiatrist says society must be prepared for more people seeking assistance

It’s been a long 24 years for Mrs. B and her son, and she expects the road ahead to be even longer.
She said her son began exhibiting abnormal behaviours at the age of four, and she blames the abuse she and her children suffered at the hands of her husband as the contributing factor.

“He was angry all the time, lashing out,” she said of her son. “He would say he wanted to die or to kill himself. That’s not normal for a four-year-old.”

Mrs. B spoke to The Telegram Thursday, but didn’t want her full name used in order to protect her family’s identity.

She said their family doctor sent her son to the Janeway Children’s Hospital, but doctors said there wasn’t anything wrong with him and sent him home.

She said they’ve been hearing that all of his life.

Now 28, her son has been on a roller-coaster ride in the mental-health system, Mrs. B said.

“We don’t know where else to turn. We’re after asking everyone for help and they all tell us the same: ‘Go to the Waterford (Hospital),’” she said, adding he is still on waiting lists for services.

Mrs. B said she felt a glimmer of hope in the 1980s when her son was again sent to the Janeway.

“He started soiling his pants,” she recalled.

“He did it for four years. Every day the school would call. Every day I’d have to go get him. I was out of my mind. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

That’s when the Janeway admitted him for three weeks.

“They trained him. That’s what they did. Not one person addressed why he was doing what he was doing or why he was behaving this way,” she said.

The next year he was accused of trying to set fire to a room in his school. Mrs. B, who by this time was a single parent, said she and her son went to a meeting with a group of educators.

Instead of offering them help or counselling, she said, they were berated.

“They told me he had issues, was lacking attention and focus, but no one told me what to do or how to help him, and they didn’t do anything to help,” Mrs. B said, sounding exasperated.

Mrs. B said by the time he was a teen, her son had turned to drugs, and by the time he was a young man he was hooked on prescription pills.

Now a father, he’s in the methadone program and is responding, she said, but he’s still not getting any counselling for  depression.

“It’s so simple, yet so complicated. All he needs is a safe, decent place to live, and counselling. It could make the difference in his life. He loves his children, but didn’t get an education and doesn’t have a job because he can’t get the help he needs to help cope with his depression,” she said.

People’s difficulty navigating the system is a concern for Eastern Health.

Kim Baldwin, regional director of community and children’s services in the mental health and addictions program, has said the authority is trying to address that by implementing a central intake service for adults. This would involve one telephone number, answered by trained professionals, who would assess calls and direct the person to the appropriate service.

They hope to have it up and running early next year.

Patients and mental-health advocates have told The Telegram there is a lack of services in the province for people who aren’t in crisis mode, and that the number of people seeking help far outweighs the services that are available.

It’s thought there are as many as 1,500 people waiting for mental health and addictions services.

The province said it’s responding by building two new addiction centres for youth, an adult addictions centre in Harbour Grace, and by planning to replace the antiquated Waterford Hospital.

“We have seen an exponential growth in the number of referrals coming in, which I guess is a good sign, as more people are reaching out to get help,” Baldwin said.

“It’s also frustrating for us as providers of the service, as well.”

Dr. Brian Furlong, chief of staff for the Homewood Health Centre — a facility that offers specialized programs for mental health in Guelph, Ont. — said wait lists can be detrimental to a person’s healing.

“I think one of the biggest problems is treatment is delayed for long periods of time, and people then don’t get the opportunity to have a good assessment, or accurate diagnosis because of the time delay,” he told The Telegram Wednesday.

“We need to be as aggressive with treating mental health and addictions as we are with treating cancer,” said Furlong, who is originally from Newfoundland.

In May 2012, Eastern Health announced it will work with Homewood to develop a new adult residential addictions treatment centre in Harbour Grace.

According to an emailed statement from Eastern Health Thursday, during fiscal year 2012-13, it sent 22 people to Homewood, funded by the Health Department — less than one per cent of all referrals to the mental health and addictions program.  

“Generally, individuals can be referred to out-of-province facilities such as the Homewood Health Centre if it has been determined that local services cannot meet individuals’ specific needs,” the statement said.

“Out-of-province referrals are generally low, as we try to provide the best treatment within the community where individuals’ support systems are.”

Furlong said as society becomes successful at reducing stigma, there shouldn’t be any surprise that more people will come forward to seek help, and society has to be prepared to respond.

“Governments and the like have to look at how much total health dollars do we dedicate to mental health and addictions, and ask is it proportional to what it would be if it was a physical health issue,” he said.

Organizations: Homewood Health Centre, Waterford Hospital, Health Department

Geographic location: Janeway Children, Guelph, Newfoundland.In Harbour Grace.According

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Recent comments

  • choosen One
    December 20, 2013 - 16:02

    Go to church get a good pastor believe in Jesus the only way out

    • Alli
      December 23, 2013 - 13:15

      Really? Does that cure cancer as well?

  • Aurelian
    December 20, 2013 - 13:24

    I don't mean to sound harsh but the reality is the system rarely works well for any number of reasons,some amenable to amelioration,some not.Best advise I ever got was from a crusty old neighbour with a limited education who gave his advice free of charge:"Life is hard so you have to be harder;Quit your crying and get on with it as best you can." I believe he was a war veteran.

  • Wild Rose
    December 20, 2013 - 08:09

    Well boo hoo. Shouldnt addicts be in prison where they belong instead of sucking our taxdollars?

    • david
      December 20, 2013 - 09:06

      Do you know who pays for prisons?

    • Taylor
      December 20, 2013 - 09:25

      For one, your "taxdollars" are used for prison as well - so either way, I guess they are being "sucked" That said, how would your response work for an 8 year old, who is only on an addicting medication BECAUSE the doctors that are treating that child think thats the only thing that can help? If the only treatment available for an illness, is an addictive drug, who is responsible? The person taking the drug, or the person prescribing the drug? If the person taking the drug feels better and lives better, when taking it - it would make sense they would want to take more to feel better for longer periods of time. YES in some cases, addicts become addicts because they went out and located the drugs themselves and abused them. However, children at 8-10-15 who are placed on mind altering drugs by professionals, so they can sit still in school, listen attentively and be socially active, are they addicts that need to be in prison? These child medications (Risperadol, Zoloft, Clondine, Ritalin etc) they are all additive. To remove a person from them, it is lowering the dose once every four days! To "wean" them off. These children can grow up to be adults (20s, 30s etc) who are suffering PTSD, or bi-order, etc? Wild Rose, I am not saying that "bad guys don't belong in prison" - what I am saying is "sick people, including some addicts, don't." Signed Taylor - mom to an 8 year old, diagnosed high anxiety, sensory processing and currently starting "medication" tomorrow. AKA - worried for our son

    • Beverley
      December 21, 2013 - 11:40

      Addicts should not be sent to prison, they have an illness just like someone who has diabetes etc. They need to get professional help. Most people think of addicts as down and out people, but addicts comes in all walks of life whether a doctor , lawyer or maybe even a neighbor. They struggle with everyday issues and find it increasing hard to stop the addiction. Your comments shows how little you understand about these problems and sending them to prison is definitely not going to work, most oiled do anything to get their life back to pre addiction days.

  • Taylor
    December 20, 2013 - 08:03

    My son is 8, on November 5th we went to the Janeway after a violent episode at school. The emergency room doctor told me that she will send a referral to psych for him to be seen. He lashes out, he doesn't remember what happened, he is scared almost all the time. At 8 years old he worries about driving on the highway, being outside the safety of his home, he is nervous when my husband and I go to work or are out of his sight. I called to inquire about the referral after 2 weeks, they hadn't recieved the information was the first response. When I provided details on the date, time and doctor they said they would look again. Two days later I got a call from Development saying that he was referred there, I said yes but the psych referrel was ON TOP of the Developmental referrel we got 13 months ago. They called back a third time, apologized for their earlier error and said that we would recieve a call from intake to get his information. We still have not gotten this call. His emergency room visit was November 5th. This is NOT good enough for our children. Time is wasted on wait lists for help, development time, social time, educational time! The average waitlist for development consultation is 14 months! Think about 14months of a childs life......are we REALLY doing enough??

  • Linda
    December 20, 2013 - 06:59

    If you have not found the help you need here in the Province - ask your doctor to be referred to Homewood in Guelph. You pay the airfare.They refer more people than they want to admit and it is the BEST facility around. After all if we can't get the help we need here that is their only option.

    • AM
      December 20, 2013 - 07:59

      Thanks for that information. I have a brother who has similar problems. He's been abusing both of my parents for just over 20 years now, he's 35. He has various problems with heavy drugs, stealing, violent behaviour, etc. He's been in and out of jail and rehab centres here since he's 14 but is just getting worse. I will definitely be offering to pay his airfare to this facility, I would give up everything I own to see him stop beating my parents for their money to buy drugs and everything else that I can't even talk about.